Mums & daughters Part 1: The one where we are side by side - Women In Sport

Mums & daughters Part 1: The one where we are side by side

October 2021

I’ve recently started coaching my daughter’s netball team, as part of my efforts to contribute to girls’ grassroots sport and also because netball has been my constant since I was 10. I felt like I couldn’t complain about the lack of opportunities for girls’ sport and not put my time where my mouth is.

Netball has grown up with me, into my teens, my university years, my twenties, post children and now into the mid life and peri/menopausal years. We definitely had a falling out of love back in the days when I thought my undercarriage would fall out post childbirth every time I jumped or a ball, but we’ve reconnected since then. It was always going to be netball.

Every night at training my daughter sports a megawatt smile. She seems to love netball as much as me. I am thrilled because I know what a love of sport can bring to your life. The friendships, the energy, understanding of fairness and good ‘sportship’. I’m enjoying doing this with her. The weekly training where we travel there and back gives us a chance to connect one on one and during training itself, I get an insight into her friendships and her attitude towards her team. It’s great and I’m really pleased I’ve scheduled my week to facilitate it. I’m lucky that right now I can make it work.

Evidently the time away hasn’t gone unnoticed by my youngest… The other day, my younger daughter was moaning about the fact that I spend so much time coaching netball and was considering some kind of public enquiry claiming unfair time allocation relative to her sister. I explained that she and I do other active things together, like our run/cycles.

What surprised me most was that my other daughter (the one my youngest one is jealous about, and the one for whom I coach netball for) piped up and said, ‘yes but at least you get mummy as just mummy, not as coach mummy. I have to share her.’

Is there any way to win as a parent? You try your best and sometimes you just get steamrolled.

It made me reflect about the differences between being a mum mum and a coach mum?

I asked my daughter about what she and ‘just mummy’ could do together and what would make it special. She said she wanted time to get out and do fun things with me that didn’t involve getting feedback. Fair point. Well made.

The problem with coach mum is that there is an imbalance in the dynamic. My job is to support and guide the development of a specific skill – in this case netball. Feedback is part of this experience. And as my daughter, maybe she does get more scrutiny during training. I can also see that sometimes the attention I give to other girls makes her feel possessive of me. After all I am her mother.

I also recognise that as a parent we also often have the guiding and ‘teaching’ role. Sometimes we need to step beyond this and just be with our children by their side. Not above them from on high with our mummy shouty pants done up nice and tight.

It has been important for me to learn that our time together needs to be meaningful to us both. That I can continue coaching her and her teammates and that this doesn’t substitute for the times when I need to just be mum, not coach.

So, finding moments when we can go for a walk or do something active will enable us to find some shared experiences where we are on an equal footing. Of course the catch cry is that there is never enough time, but we need to make it. I need to put my phone down and get her to get off her devices and together we need to make time together a priority.

I work in sport, so I know the stats about teenage girls dropping out of sport and exercise and old mummies like me dropping out during midlife/menopause. I’d like to hope that we can support each other to keep active as we transition through these phases side by side. With any luck, soon enough, she and I will be able to play netball together. Then she will get to see what its like to have a mum mum, a coach mum and a fiercely competitive netball mum. Bring it on.